Cleaning Your Custom Inflatables
It's Spring Cleaning Time, Should You Machine or Hand Wash Your Inflatables?
Annual maintenance is a must to keep your inflatable working properly and looking its best. For those balloons that are used frequently, more regular cleanings are recommended. Keeping your inflatable clean will not only increase its life by preventing mold, mildew, and the general stink factor, but it will do wonders for its appearance as well.
Hand Washing / Spot Cleaning Inflatables
To clean inflatables of all sizes, both hand washing and spot cleaning methods can be used. The choice of cleaning solution and technique depends on the fabric type and whether the inflatable has digital art. Before cleaning the entire shape, it is crucial to test any cleaning method on an inconspicuous area of the inflatable.
Follow these recommendations for cleaning inflatables based on the fabric type:
Vinyl-Coated Nylon Fabrics:
Use a soft, non-abrasive cloth with warm water and mild dish detergent to wipe the surface clean.
For tougher stains, you can use Formula 409, TSP, or a mild all-purpose cleaner in a spray bottle. Spray the cleaner on the surface and wipe it off.
Avoid using chlorine-based cleaners as they can damage the material.
ProTip: Add Years To Your Cold-Air Inflatables Made of Vinyl Coated-Nylon: Want to extend the life of your cold-air inflatables? Here's a tip that seasoned installers use to extend the life of their rental fleets: Apply a coating of vinyl protectant, i.e. Meguiar's Natural Shine, after every use. Just spray on and wipe with a clean cloth. This will prevent cracking, give added protection against UV rays, and add years to your investment!
Celtic Cloth & Polyesters (aka 500 Denier):
Hand wash urethane-coated fabrics using a sponge or damp cloth with warm water and a mild detergent solution, such as Ivory soap, as needed.
For spot removal, you can try using Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, Tide Pen, or a liquid stain remover like K2R (available on Amazon).
Spray Nine Multi-Purpose Cleaner & Disinfectant works well for cleaning ripstop fabrics, but it may require some effort.
Commercial Washing Machines
We've seen amazing transformations of older, dirty inflatables after professional cleaning, both by hand washing and commercial machines. The question is, when do you clean your inflatable by hand, and when do you have it washed in a commercial machine?
The following are points to consider when making your decision. Commercial machines cannot remove mildew or roof tar; yet they are very effective at removing roof grease, mud, and almost any other type of airborne dirt. In addition, inflatables appear at least 50% cleaner with machine washings as opposed to hand washings. Another advantage to machine washing is the ability to clean uniformly. Even the most meticulous hand-cleaning job will invariably have spotty, areas where more concentrated cleaning took place. Machine washing, however, tends to be around 1 1/2 times more expensive than hand washing. Also, commercial machines are not recommended for washing inflatables with elaborate artwork. Some artwork has been known to chip, peel, or melt in the machine washing process.
While we lean toward machine washing for most inflatables, be sure to consult with a reputable manufacturer to determine if commercial washing is right for your balloon. Normal inflatable cleanings can run between $150-$400 - a very reasonable cost to preserve an investment of thousands.